You could spend an entire day listing all the things there are to do outdoors in Gatlinburg. Meaning really outdoors, like in the national park and surrounding area. Gatlinburg backs right up to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so naturally there are a number of outdoor adventures, attractions, and escapes awaiting you right when you step out your door. If you’re looking for a vacation destination that will leave your thirst for the great outdoors quenched, look no further than Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.
Hiking in Gatlinburg
Normally, people don’t just go to the national park, turn around and go home. They go to do something. Many go to hike one or more of the over 800 miles of hiking trails found in the National Park. From wildflower hikes to an adventurous climb up Mount LeConte, you can find a trail for everyone from the beginning hiker to the advanced and everything in between.
There are trailheads to be found from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove just outside Townsend, TN that put you right in the national park.
Fishing in the National Park
The Little Pigeon River flows straight through downtown and the national park is crisscrossed by so many mountain streams you’d easily lose count. As far as dropping a line or casting a fly, take your pick of rivers and streams. Literally hundreds of miles of streams are stocked annually with brown and rainbow trout, as well as the beautiful brook trout. Even large mouth bass can be found in these waters. Fishing is permitted year round in the park, and Gatlinburg hosts an annual trout tournament where contestants compete for over $10,000 in cash and prizes.
Camping in the Smokies
If you’re idea of the perfect Smokies getaway is parking your RV or camper around Gatlinburg, there are plenty of spots to choose from. And most offer electricity, water, cable TV, hot showers and pools. In Cades Cove or Elkmont, you can pitch a tent and rough it for a few days in the wilderness. Most Smoky Mountain campgrounds are accessible first come, first served.
Class III and IV rapids can be found for miles on the Big Pigeon River as well as other nearby rivers, and several outfitters like Raft the Smokies and the Nantahala Outdoor Center offer wildwater adventures and assistance in planning your rafting trip.
The Cades Cove Campground Store is a great place to rent a bike if you aren’t planning on bringing one yourself. It’s also the perfect place to bike in the Smokies. The 11 mile Loop Road is a hot spot for cyclists wanting to get out in the park. From the historic buildings to all the wildlife roaming the Cove, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise.